Frankiebo Taylor from the policy team at Centrepoint, holds our latest report outside Lambeth Town Hall

Councils and charities discuss Centrepoint’s latest research on young people’s access to housing

Moving into your own place can be a scary prospect, particularly if you have had experience with homelessness. But what if there is no place to move into, and you are stuck for months or years in a homelessness hostel, when you just want to move on? This is the increasing reality for many young homeless people, resulting from a lack of social and private housing supply, soaring rents and benefit cuts.

Last week at Lambeth Town Hall, Centrepoint got together with local authorities and other charities to launch our new research, which reveals how inaccessible much of the social and private rented sector in England is for young people experiencing homelessness.

Charities and councils at the roundtable discussion highlighted the negative impact for young people of wanting to move onto your own home, yet being stuck in supported accommodation due to lack of housing options.

Ready to move on but being held back

A supported housing worker described the demoralising nature of being ready to move on and getting older. “The more a young person ‘overstays’ in supported housing, the more likelihood that they will go backwards, and may even fall into rent arrears,” a youth homelessness charity said. 

Everyone noted how important it is for councils to prioritise young people for social housing, particularly those with other vulnerabilities, such as the experience of care. However, local authorities highlighted that a shortage of social housing, caused by successive governments failing to build enough homes, makes it increasingly difficult to give young homeless people priority on the housing list. “We just don’t have enough stock to make [all young people] a priority,” one council said. 

Open discrimination is a barrier

Discrimination is one major problem encountered by young people with experience of homelessness. One charity described how “lots of estate agents are openly discriminating against our young people”, and another noted how a “narrative against benefits” had formed among landlords. 

The government has said it wants to outlaw landlords from enforcing blanket bans against renters claiming benefits through the Renters (Reform) Bill – new legislation expected to become law later this year. 

However, in this discussion, local authorities highlighted how difficult this would be to enforce. It is common for landlords and estate agents to covertly discriminate against people claiming benefits, and this is almost impossible to monitor. A youth homelessness charity highlighted that many young people are also asked to agree to credit score checks, which can pull up a further barrier to moving into a new home if you don’t have a full-time job.

The requirement for a tenant to list a guarantor (someone who agrees to pay your rent if you don't pay it) can also be a barrier for young people with experience of homelessness, especially if the guarantor is required to be a homeowner. One council said: “Asking for a guarantor is setting young people up to fail. Most of those with experience of homelessness won’t have a homeowner they can put down.”

One local authority said it was considering a pilot guarantor scheme, where the council would agree to be the guarantor instead. Nonetheless, participants described how many landlords are put off by the idea of the council or a charity being the guarantor, as it could be a marker that the person is on a low income. “We have had young people who have lost out on a tenancy when we have offered to pay for the deposit [or be the guarantor],” one charity highlighted.

Charities and councils are stepping in

Despite these difficulties, charities and local authorities have been taking the lead to provide homes for young people who are ready to live independently. For example, Reuben House, which opened last year, is an example of Centrepoint’s Independent Living accommodation, which is home to young people aged between 18 and 24 in various jobs, including hospitality, the building trade and social services. “The sector has tested models such as remodelled housing, repurposing existing stock,” one youth homelessness charity said. 

The government must prioritise housing for vulnerable young people

Everyone was agreed that the main solution to ensuring that all young people are able to find permanent accommodation is for the government to actively prioritise the building of housing specifically for young people. Until this happens, young people who have experienced homelessness will continue to face the trauma of having no place to call home. 

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